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Pole Society Lent Showcase: Review

What an absolute joy.

I would like to start this review by saying that I am in no way a technical judge, which may not be helpful to those of you wishing for an intricate analysis of every inverted elbow flag to flag (a move I just googled that sounded very complex) or a philosophical consideration of a "Sintra Fugues Frog" – did they put that in to catch me out? Instead, I'll consider things from the perspective of an uneducated audience member (which I was) who had a rollicking good time.

Comperes Natalie Singhal and Katy Bielena eased our audience into the show, introducing the abstract concept of pole as well as congratulating, celebrating and cheering on each act in their introductions. Although I had never attended a pole show before, I never felt out of my element, with the care that the comperes took to familiarise us with every aspect of the show, even taking the time to congratulate the pole cleaners: girls who scale the poles with ease after every routine to alternately wipe down or relubricate the poles, and are clearly just as skilled as those dancing in the show.

In the introduction, it was explained that there are three forms of pole: lyric pole, which is, like many standard contemporary dance routines, a response to the music and lyrics of the song to which one performs; fitness pole, which is like a sort of incredible gymnasticism; and exotic pole, which is what people seem to understand is every form of pole.

In fact, of all the night's incredible performances, only one of the routines is exotic pole – a daring, teasing routine that loses none of its artistry even in the loss of clothing, performed by none other than one of the show's comperes. The others all follow in the spirit of lyric or fitness, or a mix of both – an interpretation of a song with physical strength and power demonstrated in every twist of limb or electrifying cling to the pole. The audience held its breath at every moment where only an incredibly well-honed thigh muscle stopped a dancer from plummeting to the ground, or even when a move was so well-executed that we could only stare, stunned at the majestic abilities of the human body.

But for me, the highlight of the show was President Liam Ives' routine, which ended the show. I imagine that being President of a society gives one certain creative powers, and the temptation to push the boat out can doubtless be overwhelming. And yet Liam really pulled this one off: an intricate and graceful pole routine, executed entirely in an 8ft, inflatable Tyrannosaurus Rex costume, with holes for arms and legs, to the Jurassic Park theme. It is genuinely one of the most beautiful pieces of dance I have ever seen. Also, it was hilarious.

Liam's dinosaur routine only served to demonstrate what the whole showcase was showing us: that pole is an art form, a semi-aerialised ballet that takes not only incredible muscular strength, but poise, grace, emotional sensitivity and an awful lot of power. There is a glowing confidence that suffuses every performance, each dancer celebrating the physical form with an artfulness that stems from unravelling legs and tightening arms, and a joy that hangs in the air just as the dancers do.

In short, I'm in love.